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The recently published 2015 Global Peace Index, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, said that although OECD countries became more peaceful in 2014, there has been substantial increase in annual war-related deaths since 2010, and there are now more refugees than at any time since the Second World War. It is currently difficult to give a definitive answer as to whether climate change could exacerbate these problems.
Climate change is likely to exacerbate a range of environmental problems including heat waves, water shortages, and extreme weather and flooding, but whether or not this will lead to increased rates of armed conflict is still the subject of research.
This blog post by Malcom Graham, an SSCP DTP student, is part of a series on Responding to Environmental Change, an event organised by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded Doctoral Training Partnerships at Imperial (SSCP), and the University of Reading and the University of Surrey (SCENARIO).
Environmental hazards are becoming more frequent and severe, with potentially serious impacts on people, supply chains and infrastructure globally. Advancing our knowledge and understanding of these hazards, and the processes involved, will allow us to better predict, plan for and manage the risks in order to increase resilience to these changes.
In the press coverage of the recent floods, there has been a lot of discussion about whether the authorities could have been better prepared or responded more effectively. The National Farmers Union has called for the reintroduction of river dredging, although experts argue that dredging may be limited in its effectiveness. Local authorities have been criticised by experts for distributing sand bags rather than encouraging the use of more effective alternatives such as wooden or metal boards.
These are essentially tactical issues, however. It is the government and local authorities that have the vital strategic responsibility for fully embedding weather and climate risks into decisions on the level and focus of investment into flood defences and planning regulations about what can be built and where.
The US has been suffering from icy weather and snow storms in recent days. This image from NOAA shows the surface air temperature anomaly for the week 2-8 December – that is the difference from the mean temperature for this time of the year.
It was very cold over North America (where we get lots of news from!) but very warm in Eurasia and parts of the Arctic (where we don’t!). This is the sort of thing the atmosphere can do on short timescales through having a particular pattern of weather.
Governments, planning authorities, companies and individuals all need information about the impact of climate change on extreme weather in the future. A recent paper  investigates changes in extremes both globally and locally.
We can be relatively certain of the signature of climate change on a global or continental scale. On the other hand, estimating changes on a country-wide scale is harder and estimating them on a local scale (i.e. to the nearest few kilometres) is very difficult.
In the new study, scientists calculated the proportion of global land area in which certain weather extremes are expected to increase.
BBC’s Question Time on 14 November saw Lord Lawson citing the IPCC findings to support one of his arguments. Did I dream that? Then I realised that, of course, the reference to the IPCC was incomplete and misleading so I knew I was awake and back in the strange media-distorted world of the UK debate on climate change.
According to the Daily Express, Lord Lawson said that “If you look at the inter-governmental panel on climate change they say there is absolutely no connection between climate change and tropical storms.” Wrong, but convenient for someone who argues we probably don’t need to do anything much about climate change.